Experiencing time pass has to be one of the weirdest things. It surrounds everything around us yet is incredibly inconsistent. One moment it’s molasses slow, the next it was like it was never there. Scientists and philosophers have tried to explain time, how our brain makes it possible, for ions. Did we invent it? How do we all have such a unified experience with time? Is time passing or are we passing time? “Now” is a squirmy thing, the closer you get to it the harder it is to pin down. Time seems to be a sort of creepy mystery quietly packed with discovery and at least for me, it’s something I work hard at slowing way down.
Food is #1. If you’re an American, there’s no dodging it— from turning on the tv and seeing that juicy hamburger, to reading article after article about how to lose weight, to gym memberships, to following crazy diets or eating philosophies, or hell just look at the most popular things on the internet. It's food and there’s a million points of view on it. In fact, if you haven’t had a conversation with a friend about how your pants are fitting or whose fat and how they look— you’re probably not living in our society.
I wanted to take a step out of that whole crazy zoo and look at things from more of an objective “zookeeper’s” perspective when it comes to what we eat, why we’re compelled to eat it, and what we can do if we want to outsmart our brains in this insane, food-focused environment.
If you’re reading this and are middle aged (especially a man) you’re depressed and don’t have any friends. That’s right, I’m talking to you and so are big industries who capitalize on your sad state like pharma, shrinks, and the tornado of advertisers who prey on your pleas for help. Us middle-aged people are crying out for help, just like our babies who we put in nursery rooms by themselves. By now, our kids have left, our marriage may have left, and all the friends we used to have are on their own little islands, suffering just like us. We’ve all over-declared our independence, our society has built a super complex, reinforcing system around it. I’m one of these poor souls, too: a middle aged guy with my wife as my best friend, whose put everything I have into my family and most of those kids are now adults who have moved on and left poor, old me feeling really isolated and lonely.
It’s always interesting to me to see which drugs get thrown under the bus. Most of them are the ones that are illegal but the reality is, as you’ve heard on this show, that drugs are used for all kinds of reasons. Some of which are “pharmaceutical” and have to do with capitalistic interest and some are “recreational” and have to do with spiritual or social interest. The use of all those drugs has everything to do with the intent of the person or company behind it. That’s why I wanted an episode dedicated to GHB, often labeled the date-rape drug. As you’ll hear, there have been many date-rape drugs. GHB has some amazing benefits to it that has nothing to do with it’s date-rape branding.
There’s an incredible separation between the stuff we consume— like food or products— and the people who are making that stuff for us. Certainly in the States we walk through stores and everything is plastic wrapped— none of us can imagine that all the pieces came from an animal let alone the work environment that people who created the product for us had to endure. Our products are created for us in the same way— we have no idea how they’re made or how it’s affecting other people’s lives on the other side of that chain.
The reality is there’s huge industries obsessed with obfuscating the scary truth because when you strip it back, people are having incredible life-threatening situations and we have no idea. The reason we have no idea is because there’s effort made to constantly pivot or rename bad things so that we think the products that we’re buying are “green” or otherwise humanely created.
When you live in the Bay Area you pass tons of folks who appear to be mad. Most of us don’t spend enough time focusing on how our culture handles folks on the spectrum of some level of mental illness. When you think about it— the range of “madness” ranges from people with very serious mental illness to people who don’t socially fit in. As you look back across history, you can see just how we’ve dealt with it, who we’ve blamed for it, and what crazy treatments we’ve put in place.
Who better to talk about that than someone who studies it for a living. Andrew Scull, this week’s guest, is exactly that person. As a professor of Sociology at the University of San Diego, he’s written a ton of books on this subject over decades.
Clearly throughout recorded history we’ve been fascinated by things like the Fountain of Youth and anything that would reverse the aging process. Let’s face it, if you’re over 40, you feel it physically. Your systems just start to break down. In modern medicine, this process has been seen as disease but this week’s guest, Aubrey de Grey, sees it more like an engineering challenge.
Aubrey is a very controversial biomedical gerontologist and crusader against aging. He has a very specific plan that identifies the various components that cause human tissue to age, and he has very specific remedies for each of them. That’s what his non-profit, The SENS Research Foundation focuses on and it’s got some interesting people behind it, like Peter Thiel (one of the founders of PayPal) and Aubrey himself who has invested a large part of his inheritance to the cause.
Way back before capitalism, it used to be that self-welfare was the key part of our lives. We would face formidable physical and situational challenges and have to endure them, alone and with our tribe. It was likely those trials were the most meaningful experiences for our prior relatives— the very thing they could depend on and take comfort in. Today we’ve lost that ability. Comfort is handed to industries that insulate us for a fee. We spend money and depend on hermetically sealed homes, cars, drugs, food and clothing. If things get rough we rely on doctors, pills, and booze. But recently, there’s a rising voice that we’ve come to the end of the Western Medical Model. An awareness that those things don’t make life better anymore. That there are other roads. Some, like this week’s guest Wim Hof, believe it’s time to tap back into our natural abilities. That they’ve been forgotten. If there’s anyone that knows about getting out of their comfort zone, it’s him. His journey started when--with four children at home--his wife took her life by jumping out an eight story window. To deal with his grief, he went out into the extreme cold. Since then, he’s shown through examples of enduring extreme cold like being submerged in ice for nearly two hours or using his mind to ward off disease, that anyone has amazing power to face anything and literally self-regulate. He’s now using the best scientists in the world to back up what he’s learned and therefore challenge science, culture and the very industries we’ve come to assume are the answer.
Believe it or not, MDMA is about to be legal thanks to the efforts of this week’s guest, Rick Doblin. Soon MDMA will be able to help the tens of millions of people suffering from serious trauma like PTSD in drug-assisted therapy sessions. While that might seem amazing, it’s far from Rick Doblin’s sole focus. He believes it’s a basic human right to have the freedom to decide to change your own consciousness through drugs— that politics are not only blocking science but personal experiences that could help us live more fulfilled and connected lives. In fact, there’s an argument that for our cultural survival we need to reintroduce the same use of psychedelics that was a part of human culture for tens, maybe hundreds of thousands of years.
Ever notice how frequently the word “addict” is used? Just do a Google News search on the word and you’ll be shocked just how often it’s used in a headline. Articles are plastered with mentions of drug addicts, sex addicts, gambling addicts, food addicts, shopping addicts, work addicts and internet addicts. “These people” are painted as out-of-control and often menaces to society who need to be stopped, jailed, medicated or otherwise cut off. But what if those diseased people weren’t sick at all? What if you suddenly realized you were one of them? Well, that’s what happened to me. In preparation for this podcast, I realized I’m an addict. I’m an addict who comes from other addicts, who has passed it onto my kids, too. I’m constantly looking for a way to not be with myself, a way to avoid the pain I have of not having meaningful bonds. In this chat with physician and best-selling author, Gabor Maté, we talk about the shocking truth about what causes addiction and the things we can do to address the problem. What’s cool about Gabor is that he avoids quick-fix thinking when he tackles things like addiction, ADHD, sickness and the human spirit overall. Rather, he shines lights on the often uncomfortable truths that live at the root of these things.